DURHAM PLANS FOR MILLENNIUM LIFT OFF

Jeff Bowron

Durham County Cricket Club have ambitious plans both on and off the field as the new millennium enters its second year.

The county may have lost its treasured first division status in the county championship last season but new coach Martyn Moxon and overseas player Martin Love are confident the good times will return to the Riverside.

Chester-le-Street meanwhile is once again the venue for top class international cricket with world champions Australia taking on Pakistan in a re-run of the World Cup final on Saturday 16th June.

With the clubs finances, previously described as "fragile" by Chairman Bill Midgley, improving the continued development of Riverside will further enhance Durham's standing in the First Class game.

An Indoor Cricket School, Media /Educational Resource Centre and on site Hotel or leisure complex are all on the drawing board subject to the appropriate funding.

With its unique location nestled inside the snaking River Wear and the imposing Lumley Castle in the background the purpose built stadium has much to offer the cricket fan, businessman and those simply looking to get away from it all.

Durham made a profit of £100,000 from the England One Day international last year and another £72,000 from their Benefit Year and in many aspects are out performing many of their rivals.

The club boasts 18 corporate boxes and 3 lounges. The catering operation had an annual turnover of £800,000.

Director of Finance and Administration David Harker believes Durham can become a role model for the other 17 professional counties.

"Our aim is to be the most successful and highly regarded cricketing organisation in England," he said.

"It's not beyond our wildest dreams to develop the ground to its full potential with excellent amenities, have one of the top four sides in the country and an established Academy accredited by the ECB."

"These are exciting times for Durham. We've got the venue, catchment area and the sporting interest and money made from the various projects is ploughed back into the cricket side of the operation."
While performances on the field are of paramount importance Harker believes they have to look beyond the game to maximise the undoubted potential of the Riverside.

"We're more than just a cricket club," he said. "The stadium is only used for 40-50 days a year for cricket and that's why our banqueting and conference facilities are so important."

"A hotel or Leisure complex on the ground would further increase income streams as we strive to improve our trading figures year on year."

Chairman Bill Midgley stresses the importance of Durham's role in the community and a study undertaken by Durham University's Business School suggests that the County Cricket Club brings an extra £5 million into the region each year.

One-day internationals are a major source of income and Midgley eventually wants five day Test matches staged at Riverside.
"That's the ultimate goal," he said. "but if we're generating income for the region the spin off should be that some of it is put back into the club."

"An Indoor School is a must both for the professionals and local players. We've shown by the number of players who have come through the Academy to represent England that there is talent in the north east."

"The major Test grounds have indoor facilities and with central funding and lottery money the Indoor School should become reality in the near future."

Durham have several offers on the table to build a hotel on the ground but are also considering the benefit of installing a Leisure Complex at Riverside.

"It's a case of which will bring the greater financial reward," admitted Midgley. "a hotel would compliment our conference and seminars operation as well as provide accommodation for spectators."
"Trent Bridge and Old Trafford both have hotels on the ground and by developing the ground we'll be able to compete with the more established counties."

While the county have ambitious plans off the field Midgley is acutely aware that the side needs to be competitive out in the middle.
Prolific Queensland Batsman Martin Love has replaced fellow Australian Simon Katich as the County's overseas player and talented former Yorkshire coach Martyn Moxon has come in for veteran Norman Gifford.
Durham have a high percentage of locally produced talent and no county had more players in the recent young England squad.

"We have a good schools liaison programme," said Midgley. "and we've already produced an impressive amount of talented cricketers from the region."

"That's very important because in cricket, unlike football, you can't buy a team. Despite relegation last year we're moving in the right direction."
"The future looks bright for Durham and north east cricket in general
and we will endeavour to make progress both on and off the field over the coming months and years."



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